I’m Not Pissed, You Know?
Every time I would go to the toilet (sorry I keep mentioning my lavatorial habits in these blogs) at a certain foreign bar/restaurant here in Nagoya, there was a sign affixed to the wall which read: Alcohol. Because no great story starts with a salad. Or something along those lines anyway. And it’s kind of true really, isn’t it? I cannot dispute that some of the funniest anecdotes (possibly all of them) I have are a result of partaking in a wee tipple. But there is a much more dangerous side to that sweet, alcoholic liquid that otherwise can bring so much joy.
In this blog, I want to take the opportunity to write down some of my thoughts on alcohol, as one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2021 was to cut down on consumption and to look at some of the reasons why I wanted to cut down. As we are now one third of the way into the year, consider this as a little update on that one. I can say, with some pride, that I have been able to stop drinking at the same levels as I did before, with so far only one slip up, which was for a friend’s birthday, so it’s not all that bad. Since then, I have not touched a drop.
However, admittedly this has been achieved in part due to my accident which had me bed-ridden for nearly a month and now on crutches for another month or so, but even if I had not had the accident, I still think I would have been able to have reached a similar achievement.
The reason behind wanting to cut down is rather prosaic really. I didn’t get into an awful scrap or accident that led me to think ‘Right! No more alcohol!’ Nor did I have some uncomfortable words with a doctor who told me that ‘Unless you cut down on your drinking, your liver is going to explode.’ Nothing of the sort. However, there have been a few instances in the past few years that I look back on and think ‘God, what an idiot. Why did I do that?’, which I will touch on in this blog.
When thinking about writing this blog, one of the weirder thoughts I had was that I didn’t think my relationship with alcohol was particularly significant or really much different to many others’. Like many people in the UK, I’ve been drinking since my mid-to-late teens with no real rest since then, especially after starting university, and when coming to Japan – well, that didn’t help at all. If anything it probably made it worse. Coming back to Japan after graduation, I just continued drinking most nights (especially when I was living alone) without giving it much thought at all. This continued until the end of 2020, when I decided that I was time to give it a rest.
Here are some of the reasons why I decided to up my game and cut back on alcohol.
A simple but pertinent reason for many who may choose to rein in on their drinking. One month I decided to properly track my spending habits (yes, I guess I really am an adult now!) and I was shocked to find that I had spent over 20,000 yen (approximately £160) on alcohol in a single month, and I didn’t even feel like it was a heavy month. I quickly came to the conclusion that I could easily have been spending nearly double that along with all the other spending that comes as a result of drinking such as the taxi ride home, and thinking of what I could have spent that money on was a real eye-opener for me. I don’t want people to think I was binge-drinking every night. Even just getting two cans or so on my way back from work adds up, but only if you do the maths!
Health and General Well-Being
As I said already, I’ve never been advised by a doctor to stop drinking due to any health complications, and I don’t think I really ever had any genuine concerns on what alcohol was doing to my physical health (mental health, maybe!) But I don’t think it takes a genius to know that alcohol is not exactly the best thing for one’s body. Now coming up to the ripe old age of 33 (in a few weeks – just throwing that out there), I decided that it was a good idea to try and stop drinking in the interest of my future health as I get older.
Tired of Shit
I tried to think of a better subtitle for this section, but this seemed the most apposite. One day I just sat down and had a good, long think of some of the things that I felt most frustrated about. Many of them were, unsurprisingly, usually a result of alcohol. It’d probably be easier for me to just list the things I got tired of for clarity, so here it is:
- Grogginess. Those hangovers were not joyous in the slightest.
- Coming home late (repeatedly). Going out drinking straight after work, not eating properly and spending 3,000 yen or more each time purely for the sake of getting pissed.
- Emotional draining. Feeling regret for things from past that only ever seem to come to light after a few drinks got extremely tiring.
- Doing stupid things. I’m leaving this one as vague as I can as the level of ‘stupid’ can really vary!
- Time wasting. This was a good wake-up call. All those hours I spent drinking myself silly that I could have spent focusing on more productive and creative made me feel disappointed in myself. This is actually one of the reasons why I started to write.
Don’t worry, I haven’t been drunk driving! Alcohol in the right place at the right time, for the most part, is fine. But not only does alcohol put you in instances where you may be a danger to others, but it also leaves you in a situation where you may be in danger from others as well. I have a very vivid memory of being in a club one night and as soon as I sat down to speak to one of my female friends, a guy who was much taller and stronger than I am, swooped in, grabbed me by the hair and was shouting at me. Thankfully a mutual friend of ours stepped in and magically extinguished this guy’s unwarranted anger and he quickly forgot about me and went off. I later found out that he was the ex-boyfriend of that girl and that he was just ‘looking for a fight’. He got it later on in the night, apparently, and completely knocked another guy old cold for no reason whatsoever. What a bell end. I could describe a number of instances where I have witnessed alcohol-induced violence to write a whole book on it and thankfully that is the only one that would involve me directly.
But it’s not all bust ups and street brawls. I’m sure there have been many, many occasions where I have been in an unsafe situation, whether environmental or social that I care not to think of. On writing this, my trip to America in 2019 is a prime example, but I’ll regale you another time when I write about that whole trip in its own blog.
There are a few more reasons, I’m sure, but those are the main ones I could think of and I think the list is long enough as it is. But it’s not all doom and gloom, and that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t decided to cut out alcohol completely from my life. I see no reason to. Some of my favourite memories (as foggy as they may be) are from drinking with mates. I enjoy drinking, and it’s as simple as that. But I realise now what my limit is and understand better when I can and when I should not drink.
I’ve always believed that alcohol has been more of an amplifier than a depressant as many people would describe it as. And I’ve never really been what I would call a ‘bad’ drunk either, in as much as I don’t suddenly acquire the desire to start fights, swear, argue, get angry, etc. I’m more of a ‘happy drunk’, who becomes more talkative (albeit a slightly slurred one), generous (too generous with the rounds in some cases), posher (apparently), flirtatious (not always a good thing) and just generally more gregarious.
It’s a nice way to ease into a conversation in any social gathering where others are drinking and I particularly enjoy drinking with my close friends in an izakaya (a traditional Japanese style pub restaurant type affair) or pub, where it helps the flow of conversation for everyone including myself. It is, without a doubt, a social activity that the majority of adults partake in. And this is to where I have decided to limit my drinking.
Limit is the keyword here. Limiting when and controlling how much I drink is the part that I thought I would struggle with the most, but I think the continued lockdown, my accident and a little bit of will power, have made my attempts this year successful. So successful, in fact, that the little voice in the back of my head that used to say ‘Gosh, I’d love a drink right now’ has gone for the most part. I can’t think of the last time I thought I actually wanted to drink, which is strangely liberating. I’ve also had a few situations where I could have easily drunk, but even being asked if I was drinking, declined. Those are really baby steps though and I think are a lot more tests of will power yet to come!
This is not the first time that I have gone without drinking. One year I managed to go five weeks without drinking any alcohol at all until Halloween came and then I thought I’d treat myself and instantly fell back into my old habits. This time round, I’ve gone nearly four months without drinking (minus my friend’s birthday), for which I am proud of myself. I was and still am slightly worried that should I drink again, I will just fall back into that routine of drinking nearly every night, whether it’s a small glass of whisky, a few cheeky cans on the way home or five pints at a bar after work.
That is something I will just have to deal with when the time comes and hopefully it won’t be much of an issue.
What I’ve Learnt
It’s only been a few months and there is still time to learn more. However, there have been some gains that I have noticed already, which I think will only get better as time goes on.
This is naturally a positive result of drinking less. Spending less means I save more. Simple!
Increased Focus and Quality Time
Without resorting to alcohol most nights and sitting down in front of the telly or getting stupidly drunk at a bar, has really improved my ability to focus on things and also to look at things with a much clearer perspective. No longer am I settling with going to a bar straight after work and getting drunk, but appreciating how lucky I am with a nice home and girlfriend for whom I should make more of an effort by coming home early, helping to cook, clean or whatever, and spend more quality time together. It took me a while to get to this stage and I am so happy to have got there. I should point out that this is not something that I just started doing come January 2021, but I certainly made more of an effort to make it happen, as this was a bit of an issue with myself in my last relationship. That was a real ‘OK, I won’t be doing that again’ kind of moment and it’s only been getting better.
Changing Spending Habits
Not only has it been a simple case of me just spending less, but I’ve also changed by overall spending habits. I don’t know if this is a direct result of drinking less, but I have noticed that as of late I’ve barely been spending any money at all. Even on things such as snacks, soft drinks, sweets, etc. And the only things I’ve really been spending money on are on things such as books, which I like to look at as more of an investment than anything else.
To end for now, I just want to say that alcohol is not in itself inherently evil and I have no intention of removing it from my life at all. A little glass of whisky and a few beers with friends here and there would not go amiss, but who knows? Depending on how my attitude changes, it might just naturally remove itself, as I’ve read with many people who thought to have a dry month only to never go back. I highly doubt this will happen to me for various reasons, but that’s fine. That’s not my goal and I would be lying to myself if I said it was.